Ragged Line

 

                        Ragged Line

 

On those mornings when the surf was blown out, or too big, or too small, or too crowded, he would seek treasure along that line of packed wet sand between the south jetty and the much longer string of rocks that protected the harbor from just the type of sudden storm that, south wind still blowing, had pushed dirty wads of feathers and bubbles, ripped-loose strands of seaweed, odd chunks of trees from distant shores, into another line

 

In the first light of another too-early morning after yet another too-late night, he’d occasionally look up from this map of the farthest reach of gale-pushed waves, high tide and low pressure, eyes following the occasional set wave, from some farther fetch, clean, caught in the chop and windswell; rideable perhaps, in other conditions.

 

These waves would break into the deeper channel nearer the harbor jetty, the place where the excess force would be relieved in a river. Rip tide.

 

She was too near that river when he saw her. Or thought he did, rising. She was knocked sideways; trying again, clumsily, to stand, weighed down by pearls and diamonds and her second-best outfit.

 

Grainy light, everything grey; cutting wind and the remnants of his own fog. He ran, blinked, focused, tried to clear his suddenly-watering eyes. He met her knee deep. She fell upon him, the furthest lengths of her seaweed hair against him; one brief but deep look into his eyes before she, as if he was land, closed hers.

 

He knew her. Of all the magical gifts he sought along the ragged line, she was the one he most sought.

 

No, he did know her. Night before last, she was laughing, her hair alive, her shoulders moving so subtly, her eyes glancing away from the man she was with. She had caught his eye through the open window to the kitchen, caught him staring as he wiped a bead of sweat with his white sleeve, pushed another order forward.

 

He hadn’t looked away, filling in her biography with his own fictions. She wasn’t happy. She was also working; in a way; performing. He believed she recognized him; someone only occasionally free. Occasionally free.

Image 

 

Wrapped in his sweatshirt and coat, she was mostly walking on her own by the time they reached the parking lot, empty except for his truck, boards mostly hidden in the bed. A break in the clouds to the east put just a bit of gold onto her still gray-green face. She leaned on the passenger door, then forward, puking more of the ocean onto the asphalt.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking into his eyes with what he took for recognition.

 

Three vehicles, two with flashing lights, approached on the road from the harbor.

 

A Coast Guard boat sped from the farthest reach of the north jetty, racing sideways through the troughs and crests; circling back to the churning rip where a body of someone who fell off a pleasure boat caught in a sudden storm, might end up.

 

So, it was over. He tried to study her face; to remember; treasure found, treasure lost.

 

“Save me,” she said, shaking, still-cold hands moving from his shoulders to the door. Two bottles fell to the pavement. One broke.

 

The eyes of the man from the restaurant, from his car, as rescuers ran past him, moved, eventually, to the woman in the hoody in the cab. She looked directly at him; shook her head ever so slightly.

 

“So…you surf here?”

 

Opening the truck’s driver’s side door, he looked from the man to the ocean.

 

“Not today.”    

 

        

The illustration is by my sister, Melissa Lynch, professional artist. I hope to convince her to do more. While I started out drawing cartoons and surfing pictures, Melissa started out drawing horses. The story is exactly 600 words in length, and was originally written for the “Three Minute Fiction” competition on National Public Radio’s “Weekend All Things Considered.” I haven’t heard anything from NPR, and had certain boundaries not unlike those I required of my sister. Perhaps because I enjoyed writing the story so much, sort of plugging my friend Stephen into the male character’s part, some part of me thought, maybe, maybe it was good enough. As for Melissa’s drawing; couldn’t imagine one any better.

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Wally Blodgett and the Spinning Glass

 

I first noticed Wally Blodgett in 1968, sharing that same route along the bluffs (Grandview, Beacons, Stone Steps, Swamis) I took, dawn patrol in an older car filled with teenage surfers, always quite a few boards on top.

 

Wally was like the Dad, the duty driver. But, since most of his passengers were old enough to drive their own cars (as I did), and seemed perfectly unembarrassed by riding with Mr. Blodgett, and since San Dieguito* kids seemed to learn to be cool in grade school, anyone would have to assume Wally Blodgett was cool.   

 

Unlike most of our dads, off working during surfing hours, Wally went out surfing Always one of the older surfers in the water, he rode a belly board. My lasting image is of him prowling the inside lineup at Swamis, waiting for an empty wave. Or maybe he just wanted that on-the-shoulder water angle for watching and cheering on his son, Buzz, and their mutual friends. Extra coolness points.

 

As I surfed more frequently without my friends, I would have loved to have been included in that crew.

 

Someone eventually told me, “Wally Blodgett, he throws pots for a living.” “Throws pots?” “Vases and stuff.” “Oh.” “He gets up super early, throws pots or fires them. When he gets enough, he takes them up to L.A., sells all of them, wholesale.” “Cool. You know, I’m an artist, too.” “Uh huh.”

 

While the members of the Blodgett Crew did the standard teenager thing (enhanced by being surfers, perhaps) of ignoring anyone else they might be competing for a wave with, Wally was always nice to me in the water and the various parking areas. I was riding boards I’d made myself at the time, usually shaping and glassing blanks gathered from stripped-down longer boards.

 

“It looks like you make these boards with an ax,” he said one morning, after what was, I thought, a great session at Swamis; “but you seem to ride them pretty well.”

 

“Um…Thanks.”     

 

Some time in 1969, at Mira Costa Junior College (Oceanside/Carlsbad) for a surf movie, and glad the circuit had a venue closer than Hoover High School in San Diego, I pointed out a yawning Mr. Blodgett and his Crew, coming in together and fashionably late, to my girlfriend, Trish. Wally was giving the crowd a proper and discerning look-over.

 

“He throws pots for a living.” “Oh, nice.” “Vases, stuff like that.” “I know.”

 

My art classes at Palomar were afternoon events; three hours every day except Friday. This gave us allegedly-creative types time to work and hang out and pose all artsy-like. And one could wander from one studio to another, checking-out and ruthlessly critiquing what others were doing

 

As with surfers, artists judge each other harshly. I confess to having felt a little more artist-like than those Hippie/posers. I had, after all won best Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Boy artist at Fallbrook, though they awarded a scholarship (actual money) to my main male competition, Chester Meck.

 

And I did most of my art homework at Buddy’s Sign Service, where I was a signpainter’s apprentice, with real brushes and bright enamels, and easels capable of handling four foot by eight foot signs at my disposal.

 

The former home and printing facility for the Oceanside Blade Tribune newspaper was a space quite dingy enough to be much closer to a true artist’s studio than someone’s Mom’s kitchen counter. There was a huge skylight over an equal-sized hole in the concrete floor, the former home of the printing press.

 

The building, at First and Tremont, was a block from the Oceanside bus station, suitably dangerous; and a block of train tracks from the beach; perfectly city-surf set. I was working, developing my semi-artistic skills one block from the city version of US 101, where the efforts of hawkers of cheap jewelry, electronics, and available women periodically caused the Command people at nearby Camp Pendleton to declare the area off limits to Marines.    

 

Just to further set the scene at Palomar Junior College: “Trout Fishing in America” was a must read. Protest signs and posters were everywhere on the campus. One read, “Remember My Lai” (1968 Vietnam massacre). Another read, “If God didn’t exist it would be necessary for man to invent him” While student-made anti-war banners were hung and removed regularly, those two were in the office windows of obviously-tenured professors.

 

And, freed from dress codes and more direct parental supervision, kids from my high school I knew as dorky suddenly had long hair and other affectations of perceived coolness, and were suddenly aware of social injustice and corporate corruption.

Great. Still, I was busy, just wanted, somewhat desperately, to learn. In art classes, anyway, trying to slide through the academics. Richard Brautigan, in the book I did eventually read, spoke of all that was going on in those hyper-crazy-aware times, the universe screaming at us all, then wrote, “I just wanted to go fishing.”

 

I could relate**.  

 

 

ImageThe poster in the Art Department area I remember most (placed on an approved bulletin board) was of a studio converted from a working barn, all wood and rope, sepia-toned, with a naked model casually leaning against a post, not-really-posing, almost blending into the scene. To me, that was art.

 

But, there in one of the classroom/work areas, was Wally Blodgett, spinning and blowing glass; heat, spin, blow, heat, spin. “Hey, Kid. You go here, too? Check this out!”

 

Wally was excited, totally immersed in learning the craft, the art. Not unrelated to the potter’s wheel, this spinning of molten glass must have seemed like a natural progression. And both required fire; clay to a finished vase, sand to glass; so balanced, such a naturally perfect symmetry.

 

No; few things in nature are perfectly symmetrical. But Wally’s work could approach that. So new, so exciting.

 

Thirty-five years later (and this was a few years ago now) I googled “Wally Blodgett.” What I discovered is that his son, Buzz, has carried on the glass art tradition, and has carried it way beyond those first steps taken at Palomar J.C.

 

There is an obvious ocean influence on the works Buzz creates. Handed down, passed on; this is the Wally Blodgett legacy. More likely, it’s part of his legacy.   

 

Since there was a site, blogettglass.com, I e-mailed Buzz. He wrote back. He didn’t remember me; listed some names of a few Fallbrook surfers he had known, none of which I recognized. Different crews. That’s all right. I mentioned what his father had said about my handmade boards. “That sounds just like him.”

 

Well, um, yeah; because it was him.

 

*San Dieguito includes the beach towns of San Diego’s North County; not Fallbrook

**Allegedly frustrated by the lack of success of later books, Richard Brautigan eventually took his own life, something I note here because I noted his passing at the time. Fashions change. He may have forgotten he is separate from his words.

Photo identified as “Blodgett on Surfboard.”

Erwin,
Image
Here’s 3 photo’s that my brother-in-law scanned.  The one with him and the bellyboard with Ed Shumpert’s mermaid I don’t ever remember seeing before. That board is from the time that we were surfing Grandview back in the late 60’s. My Dad gave that board to the Belly Up Tavern and the last time I was there is was still up in the rafters. They had a party there for my Dad after he died. Ed Shumpert later did the sculpture of Duke Kahanamoku in Huntington Beach. He also shaped for Ocean Pacific Surfboards before it became the surf clothing company using the logo designed by Ed. The picture of the three guys on the board must from way before I was born.
Buzz

wally-portrait-from Buzz Blodgett’s-college-photo-class

All right, this shows my lack of computer skills. This is Buzz Blodgett’s photo of his father, Wally.
Buzz is my age, and back when I was cruising the surf spots along the bluffs between Leucadia and Cardiff, Wally was packing his car with boards and kids. The difference between Buzz’s father and mine, and probably yours, is Wally got in the water.
The first irony here is, though I spoke to Wally, I never really spoke to my peers.
I have a story about Wally. This isn’t it.
My story isn’t polished enough. Not yet.
It’s a tale of glass and art and, really, that sort of taking a minute for kindness.
Meanwhile, Buzz sent me this and another great photo. I finally figured out how to get this one from my e-mail to my site. So, here it is.
The second irony is: I was taking a photography class at Palomar Junior College at the same time as Buzz, but, unable to get into the beginners class, I tried to sneak into the advanced group.
Though I was instantly revealed to be a kook in the darkroom, I was allowed to stay. I remember almost wetting myself, refusing and unable to leave as the first images of my first self-developed roll came to life
If you can wait a bit longer, I have to make sure the finished piece is worthy.

alternate arch

alternate arch

I wasn’t totally pleased with the illustration for the story on the classic Hawaiian Arch. So, here’s another attempt. I’ll wait until my sister, Melissa Lynch, an awesome artist, gives me some imput.
I should mention she’s my younger sister, but, artwise, I’m intimidated by her. And, I have a story that is waiting for her illustration. It’ll be great. No pressure, Melissa.
Whether I use this drawing or the other, or another, I’ll delete the others.
Yeah, my scanner seems to produce those ‘burn marks.’
Not in black and white.

Classic Arch Pose in 1972 Blackball Session

Image                        CLASSIC ARCH POSE IN 1972 BLACKBALL SESSION 

 It would have to be categorized as summer ‘fun surf;’ early afternoon, pre-glassoff texture, the lines broken up enough to offer some peaks with workable shoulders; nothing scary, nothing great, just, fun.

 The surfing area in Pacific Beach gets pushed, each summer, well north of the Crystal Pier, the black ball flags and lifeguards making sure the swimmers have a chance at rolling and tumbling. It was one of those days where the crew of painters I was working with, having finished our day’s assignment, headed for this bar or that strip club. Trish still at work, I headed for the beach.

 The whole purpose of telling this story is to justify the classic Hawaiian arch. Pose? Maybe. Fun? Oh, yes. A tradition worthy of passing on? Indeed.

 I would argue that the move, leaning back, reaching your hands heavenward  to thank God, the Universe, or whatever Deity you recognize for allowing you to be racing across some wave face is a surfer’s praise position, a moving Hallelujah.   

 And it’s a natural reaction to the joy of a particularly enjoyable moment, like rotating your stance just slightly to place your hand into the curl or wall of a breaking wave, maybe out of some sense of respect, maybe just to feel the rush of water.

 But, there is the ‘look at me’ argument. It is a pose. Hang five. Hold it. Backpeddle.

 I don’t know where my ride fits in. I was wailing across a wave, sneaking my left foot forward on my roundy-nosed six foot board… arching, possibly even letting out a ‘eeeooowww!’ as if I were surfing with just a few friends.  I wasn’t. The other surfers out were a couple of school kids, strangers, both of them wading out, witnessing.

 They shared a laugh between themselves. Some grownups. Geez.

 Yet, on the next ride, one of the kids, still laughing his ass off, kind of timidly slid his front foot forward, kind of awkwardly leaned back. “Eeeeeooowwww!”

 Another tradition passed on. Another moment held, held a little longer… and backpedal, drop down, pull back up and onward, rotating just slightly…

Hallelujah!